London: In the first arrests in the UK directly linked to the probe into the Brussels and the Paris attacks, five persons, including a woman, have been arrested by counter-terrorism police here. The arrests were made as part of a Europe-wide investigation, involving French and Belgian authorities, into the terrorist attacks in Paris last November and Brussels last month.
West Midlands Police said four persons, including three men aged 26, 40 and 59 and a 29-year-old woman, were arrested in Birmingham Thursday night, apart from a 26-year-old man held at London’s Gatwick Airport.
These are the first arrests in the UK directly connected with the investigation into the Brussels and Paris attacks. All five are being held in West Midlands on suspicion of being involved in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.
“This action forms part of an extensive investigation by West Midlands counter terrorism unit, together with the wider counter terrorism network, MI5 and international partners including Belgian and French authorities to address any associated threat to the UK following the attacks in Europe,” said assistant chief constable Marcus Beale, who leads on counter-terrorism for the West Midlands.
“The arrests were pre-planned and intelligence-led. There was no risk to the public at any time and there is no information to suggest an attack in the UK was being planned.” Police are also searching a number of properties in Birmingham as part of the investigation.
According to some British media reports, a line of inquiry is whether the group is connected to Mohamed Abrini, the so-called ‘man in the white hat’ from the Brussels airport attack and prime suspect in the November Paris atrocities, as he is known to have visited contacts in Birmingham last year as well as visiting London and Manchester.
The British arrests come less than a week after Abrini, a 31-year-old Belgian national, was detained by Belgian police after a prolonged man-hunt. Suicide attacks at Brussels’ airport and on a metro train killed 32 people last month, while 130 people were killed in a bombing and shooting spree in Paris in November. Both attacks were claimed by the Islamic State terrorist group.